You might consider adding some spice to your diet as researchers found a 13% decrease in the total mortality rate of people who ate hot red chili peppers. That’s right - a Sriracha addiction may pay off.
This new study is only one of two studies on this subject, confirming the findings of a 2015 Chinese study. Scientists from the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont examined data from 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years. The mortality rate for people who ate chili peppers was 21.6%. This is in comparison to the 33.6% rate of mortality among those who didn’t. The difference in numbers is largely because of a decrease in deaths due to heart disease and stroke in the chili-pepper-consuming group.
How specifically do chili peppers help decrease mortality? The main component of chili peppers called “capsaicin” may be the reason.
”Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship," write the authors Professor of Medicine Benjamin Littenberg, M.D. and medical student Mustafa Chopan '17.
While further research is necessary, scientists propose some explanations of how capsaicin could be making a difference. This component could be positively affecting cellular and molecular mechanisms which are linked to obesity and control coronary blood flow. In particular, capsaicin could be fighting high cholesterol, help metabolize fat breakdown, reducing likelihood of diabetes and stopping tumors. It could also have antimicrobial qualities, positively affecting the microbiota of the gut.
The scientists think their work might result in people needing to eat more spicy food.
“Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper—or even spicy food - consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials," said Chopan.
If you weren't excited enough about chili peppers at this point, here's a video from a hot pepper eating contest:
COVER PHOTO: This photo taken on July 2, 2016 shows contestants taking part in a chilli pepper-eating competition in Lijiang, southwest China's Yunnan province. The first prize was won by a man from Chengdu as he ate 47 chilli peppers in two minutes. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)